Mike Rizzo loves the Nats having a starting rotation full of 'alpha males'

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Ryan Wormeli
·3 min read
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Mike Rizzo loves a starting rotation full of 'alpha males' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo knows a thing or two about the value of competitive aces heading up his teams' pitching staffs.

In Arizona, he had two of the best in baseball in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. In Washington, he's watched Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg take their games to the next level. And in recent years, he's added two more aces in Patrick Corbin and, this offseason, Jon Lester.

While each of their talents are undeniable, it's the mentality they have on the mound and in practice that sets them apart for Rizzo.

"I kind of like that dynamic of having a bunch of alpha males in the rotation. I think competition begets performance," Rizzo told media members during his availability on Thursday. "I remember in Arizona when we had Schilling and Johnson battling it out for supremacy in that rotation. I really like the fact that we’ve got four guys that have done it at the highest level and have the hardware to show for it. And I think that the competition, friendly competition, I think will kind of lift everybody’s game and is certainly going to be fun to watch those guys get after it in preparation for the season, and then it’s always a joy to watch those guys prepare during the season, and the quiet competition that they have between each other."

Nats fans are already familiar with Scherzer's bulldog routine as the ace of the Nationals staff. His fiery, competitive nature has helped bring home three Cy Young awards and seven All-Star nods for the future Hall of Famer. Stephen Strasburg won a World Series MVP while making three All-Star Games of his own. And Patrick Corbin tossed over 200 innings and finished 11th in Cy Young voting in his lone full season in Washington so far.

Added to that group now is Lester, a five-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion with a reputation as a big-game pitcher who steps up when the lights are brightest. He's been a bulldog in his own right as the ace atop rotations in Boston and Chicago, and he's a great luxury for the Nationals to have slotted into the four-spot in their rotation.

As Rizzo points out, the rotation is almost certainly going to be the backbone of the 2021 Nationals, thanks not only to their talent and attitude but to their remarkable depth as well.

"We’re one of the few teams in baseball that has a competition only in a fifth starter role, so we feel fortunate for that," Rizzo said. "We like our starting rotation, the depth in our starting rotation and starting pitching in general. Not only our Big Four, but the three guys with Major League experience that are going to fight for the five-hole spot, and beyond them we’ve got a plethora of good young arms chomping at the bit that’s going to be pushing the other starters to be better."

Many of the best teams in baseball have a culture that rewards hard work and competition, and the Nationals' rotation is no different. For them, a winning organization starts with pitching and winning pitchers start with an "alpha male" spirit on the mound.

If they're right, then a rotation with Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and Lester should go a long way toward bouncing back from a disappointing 2020 season.